Metastatic Brain Tumor

Metastatic Brain Tumor

A metastatic brain tumor is a cancer within the brain, but one that originated in another part of the body and then spread to the brain. Sometimes this process results in a single tumor; in other cases metastasis can cause multiple tumors. About 10–20% of all brain metastases are single tumors.

Metastatic brain tumors and their symptoms are partially treatable. The goal of treatment with brain metastasis is improved quality of life, longer survival and stabilization of neurocognitive function. Thanks to treatment advances in the last decade, many improvements have been developed.

Breast, lung, skin (melanoma), kidney and colon cancers commonly spread to the brain from their respective locations. Kidney cancer and breast cancer often cause single tumors in the brain, while lung, colon and skin cancers tend to cause multiple tumors.

A metastatic brain tumor is usually found when a cancer patient begins to experience neurological symptoms, and the doctor orders brain imaging tests (CT or MRI). Less than 10% of brain metastases are found before the primary cancer is diagnosed. This may happen when a person has an imaging test (MRI scan) for another medical reason, and the brain tumor is discovered coincidentally. Occasionally a person with no history of cancer may have neurological symptoms, undergoes a brain scan, and a brain tumor is detected.

Increasingly, cancer patients who are offered new therapies via clinical trials are required to undergo brain imaging tests, part of which is termed radiologic staging. This may incidentally reveal brain metastases.

Metastatic Brain Tumor Symptoms

Metastatic brain tumor symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Decreased coordination, clumsiness, falls
  • Fever
  • General malaise or lethargy
  • Headache (new or more severe than usual)
  • Memory loss, poor judgment, difficulty solving problems
  • Numbness, tingling, pain, and other changes in sensation
  • Personality changes
  • Rapid emotional changes or strange behaviors
  • Seizures that are new
  • Speech difficulties
  • Vision changes (double vision, decreased vision)
  • Vomiting (with or without nausea)
  • Weakness of a body area

Specific symptoms vary. Many of the symptoms are caused by increased pressure in the brain.

Getting Diagnosed

Our team of specialists provides the most up-to-date evaluations using the latest diagnostic and imaging technology.

We work very closely with the departments of Neurosurgery, Interventional Neuroradiology, Neurology and Radiation Oncology, as well as the Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus Center and Skull Base Center to ensure an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment for the best outcome.


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The Neuroscience Institute

We are dedicated to the world-class diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases and disorders.